Russell Kennedy (Melbourne/Sydney): Australian National Disease Surveillance Plan

The Australian National Disease Surveillance Plan for COVID-19 (the Surveillance Plan) is one aspect of the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-2019).

The overarching goal of the Surveillance Plan is to implement a sustainable approach to suppressing the transmission of COVID-19. More specifically, each surveillance system in the Surveillance Plan is designed to:

  • Provide daily updates of the characteristics of the virus and trends in the pandemic;
  • Provide an indication of the scale and severity of the pandemic and its impact on the community;
  • Track the efficacy of testing;
  • Track close contact cases and evaluate the process of rapid identification and quarantining;
  • Track community clusters and evaluate control strategies;
  • Provide an indication of the impact on medical resources as juxtaposed against identification of high risk groups and evaluate public health measures and hospital capacity;
  • Track how widespread the virus is, even in those who have mild, asymptomatic or atypical symptoms; and
  • Identify potential outbreaks, particularly in high risk settings and also which are juxtaposed against those with mild, asymptomatic or atypical symptoms.

The surveillance systems planned to be adopted are as follows:

  • Case-base surveillance, which involves each State and Territory collecting, storing and providing its health data.
  • Targeted active case finding, which sets out a priority of targeted testing.  For example – those showing fever and respiratory symptoms and/or in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
  • Syndromic and sentinel surveillance, which collects data in relation to people showing symptoms but not tested.
  • Serosurveillance, which involves testing antibodies to COVID-19 and understanding the population’s immunity to the virus.
  • Molecular epidemiology, which involves comparing other factors to identify particularly susceptible individuals or populations.

The Surveillance Plan is noted as a “living plan” and will continue to be re-evaluated and adjusted.

To read the Surveillance Plan, click here.

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